Steve Bouquet’s trial was watched by one observer with a cat themed bag (Picture: Eddie Mitchell)
A security guard killed nine cats and injured seven more in a series of gruesome attacks that left police in Brighton stumped for months, a court has heard.
Steve Bouquet, 54, previously pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of criminal damage in relation to cats and one count of possession of a knife.
Chichester Crown Court was told on Tuesday that CCTV footage appears to show Bouquet making a ‘sudden jerk’ into a kitten, which later died from a stab wound.
Detectives had received more and more reports of beloved pets being seriously injured or killed in suspicious circumstances between October 2018 and June 2019, but were unable to identify a suspect.
A breakthrough in the mystery came when a CCTV system set up by an owner of one slain cat appeared to capture a fresh attack on camera, the court heard.
Prosecutor Rowan Jenkins told jurors: ‘In 2018 Sussex Police commenced what became a major investigation following reports of domestic cats being targeted and deliberately stabbed in Brighton.
‘Sometimes owners … found that their cats were still alive and were able to take timely action to try and save them by rushing them to their vets.’
But, he explained that on May 31, 2019, Stewart Montgomery and his partner Agatha were at home when their nine-month-old black kitten Hendrix arrived home bleeding heavily.
Bouquet is accused of a string of attacks on cats between October 2018 and July 2019 (Picture: Eddie Mitchell)
They rushed him to the vet but the injury – a single knife wound driven right through from side to side – was too severe and he did not survive.
When he got home, Mr Montgomery noticed a trail of blood and saw a CCTV camera nearby.
The camera had been set up by neighbour Alan Levy, whose cat Hannah had been stabbed and killed the year before, the court heard.
The footage, which was passed to police after a telephone conversation between the neighbours, appears to show Bouquet, from Brighton, stroking a cat, taking something from his rucksack and then making a ‘sudden jerk’ with his arm, the prosecutor said.
‘This is the moment we say that the defendant stabs Hendrix with some force,’ Mr Jenkins explained.
One observer went to the case with a cat-themed bag (Picture: Eddie Mitchell)
He added: ‘The south-facing recording shows Hendrix outside on the pathway at just after 7.50pm.
‘A person walks up from the same direction and stops and interacts with Hendrix: the defendant, Steve Bouquet.’
After allegedly stabbing him, Bouquet rearranges his rucksack and glances in when he passes Hendrix’s home, where the cat had immediately fled to after being knifed, Mr Jenkins said.
He said Bouquet noticed the camera and returned on two subsequent days, only for Mr Levy to call the police when he saw him live on CCTV.
‘Bouquet was followed and stopped by police that evening’, Mr Jenkins said.
‘He was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage to a number of cats and was cautioned. He was in possession of the very same rucksack as seen on earlier images.
‘He was searched by a police officer and from a pouch on his belt was found a Leatherman multi-tool. That included a locking knife with a blade around 2.6 inches long.
‘He was additionally arrested for possession of the knife. The defendant was taken into custody and interviewed for the first time later that day.’
The prosecutor said that Bouquet’s phone was seized by police and it showed that he was ‘in the vicinity of the stabbings within the timeframe when they took place.’
Mr Jenkins added that whoever was responsible for all the attacks caused suffering to the animals themselves and emotional and financial trauma to owners.
Widow loses battle with husband’s first wife in battle over £840,000 will
He described the wounds as ‘penetrative and clean’, and caused by a sharp article such as a knife.
‘Somebody was deliberately inflicting these injuries, they weren’t minor injuries’, he said.
‘Despite their best professional efforts, many of the animals could not be saved (by vets).
‘Nobody was ever caught in the act so this went on for quite a while.’
Owners who did not have insurance were forced to fork out thousands of pounds in veterinary bills to try to save their pets – with total costs reaching £32,000, the court heard.
The attacks often happened in the ‘twittens’ – narrow lanes that cut in between main roads.
Before the trial began, potential jurors with a love or dislike for cats were exempted.
The trial continues.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.